Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Beauty in Breaking

Rate this book
An emergency room physician explores how a life of service to others taught her how to heal herself.

Michele Harper is a female, African American emergency room physician in a profession that is overwhelmingly male and white. Brought up in Washington, DC, in an abusive family, she went to Harvard, where she met her husband. They stayed together through medical school until two months before she was scheduled to join the staff of a hospital in central Philadelphia, when he told her he couldn't move with her. Her marriage at an end, Harper began her new life in a new city, in a new job, as a newly single woman.

In the ensuing years, as Harper learned to become an effective ER physician, bringing insight and empathy to every patient encounter, she came to understand that each of us is broken—physically, emotionally, psychically. How we recognize those breaks, how we try to mend them, and where we go from there are all crucial parts of the healing process.

The Beauty in Breaking is the poignant true story of Harper's journey toward self-healing. Each of the patients Harper writes about taught her something important about recuperation and recovery. How to let go of fear even when the future is murky. How to tell the truth when it's simpler to overlook it. How to understand that compassion isn't the same as justice. As she shines a light on the systemic disenfranchisement of the patients she treats as they struggle to maintain their health and dignity, Harper comes to understand the importance of allowing ourselves to make peace with the past as we draw support from the present. In this hopeful, moving, and beautiful book, she passes along the precious, necessary lessons that she has learned as a daughter, a woman, and a physician.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published July 7, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Michele Harper

4 books196 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
6,634 (25%)
4 stars
10,638 (40%)
3 stars
7,537 (28%)
2 stars
1,447 (5%)
1 star
266 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,843 reviews
Profile Image for Kimberley.
336 reviews45 followers
April 15, 2020
I can see the value of a memoir like this—particularly if you’re currently in healthcare or are deeply interested in the way politics plagues medical decisions.

That said, a lot of the case studies offered (of which there are ten) end with a lesson-learned; the author practiced Buddhism, as a religious philosophy, and it’s clear her acceptance of that is what allowed her to not only understand and reconcile her own pain, but deal with the injustices she’s faced as a medical professional.

Each anecdote offered speaks to a particular issue—poverty, profiling, sexism in the professional realm, racism, deficiencies in the way we view/treat mental health, how poorly we tend to our veteran’s, etc.—and Harper makes sure to spell out the cases in a detailed manner; this allows the reader to understand for themself just how lacking things are within the medical profession, and how much of that is due to what we’ve chosen to value at the legislative level.

At some points, the book was a bit too preachy, and that was a turnoff for me.

That said, if you’re unaware of how easy it is for the most vulnerable among us to fall through the cracks, as a result of lopsided policy or systemic racism, this book will open your eyes to just how much is wrong with patient care in this country.

Thanks to Edelweiss+ for the advanced e-Copy of this author’s work.
Profile Image for Shannon A.
313 reviews19 followers
June 10, 2020
I simply couldn't put this memoir down. It's a debut unlike any other; If you think this a medical career memoir you'd be wrong and pleasantly surprised. Michele brings to light what is often forgotten in the medical shows: First you become a doctor and then you discover how to become a healer.
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,209 reviews26k followers
August 28, 2020
This was really interesting. I don't read memoirs often and I've never read a memoir from a doctor or medical professional before so this audiobook was a very interesting experience. This author has a lot of interesting stories from the emergency room and she also has a lot to say about what it's like to work as a Black woman in a field that is mostly dominated by white men. She also has a lot to say about how Black people are treated so unfairly sometimes when it comes to receiving the medical attention they need, as well as the strange relationships between cops and doctors as to what they are legally allowed to do with people who are arrested but need to see a doctor. Overall, it was a really interesting educational experience for me to listen to this audiobook.
Profile Image for Holly.
106 reviews2 followers
July 26, 2020
Dr. Harper falls prey to my pet peeve in memoirs: she paints herself as a saint. This woman is apparently perfect. She went to Harvard, she cares about her patients more than any other doctor does, she bestows forgiveness upon those who hurt her the most. And there’s more: she eats healthy, she does yoga and meditates, she drinks fair-trade coffee, she recycles her old medical magazines, and she listens to NPR. All that goodness seems to give her license to ruin her interesting stories about patients and their ailments by climbing behind a pulpit and sermonizing ad nauseum.
Profile Image for Lauren Hopkins.
Author 3 books182 followers
July 30, 2020
I came in with REALLY high expectations here. Medical memoir? Black woman kicking ass at her profession? An inside look at how hospitals in the U.S. are racist in the treatment of BIPOC patients and providers? It was pure gold for me without even opening the cover, but unfortunately, it falls a bit flat. Where the author stands out is in her discussions of race and privilege, which she seamlessly weaves in and out of many of her stories, both ER and personal, but the storytelling itself just isn't there at all, to the point where everything that happens sounds fake AF (and the dialogue is heinously written).

My biggest issue is that she uses each of her ER stories to "learn a lesson" in her personal life and it's so vomitously preachy I was like please stop it right now. The premise here is that the author had a rough childhood and later got divorced, so she has a lot of things to be sad about, and when she moves away to Philadelphia for a job, she decides to take this time to find herself and discover the "beauty in breaking" which I feel like is what every girl in my 8th grade English class called every poem they ever wrote, and isn't it also the title of an emo song?

Anyway, she shares with us a number of ER stories that she ties to problems in her personal life, making the literal death of humans somehow about her divorce lmao, which isn't cute. Examples... A man finds out his prostate cancer has metastasized throughout his body but he's like "I lived a great life and ate healthy and couldn't be happier with how things went so this is fine!" and she ends this chapter about how "inspired" she is by him which is like, inspiration porn ableism at best, and also just a terrible story (I think this one inspired her to do yoga or something, honestly I forgot, she does yoga a LOT). In another, a 12-day-old baby stops breathing and dies before he gets to the hospital, so she can't save him and she goes home and cries about it, and the baby's death and his family's reaction makes her realize she needs to share her feelings with others. I just...

ALL of her stories are like this. Of course, like every other medical memoirist, she has some comment about how medical shows on TV are NOT like real life in a hospital, but every chapter reads like Meredith narrating season one episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and they all end in the same "look at me finding beauty in breaking!" and "it turns out I didn't save the patient...the patient saved ME!" tropes. Most lessons are a reach, all are 70s sitcom cheeseball, and after looking forward to really getting into the nitty gritty of what it's like to be a Black woman navigating and succeeding in a profession that has long been dominated by old white men, while we do get glimpses of this, it's not at all the focus, or even all that developed into something more than the fact that this is how things are and it sucks.

She does talk about systemic issues in medicine/society in general, and like I said before, this is where she is at her strongest. I found the story of two white cops trying to force a Black man to get x-rays against his will, claiming he "swallowed bags of drugs," especially powerful, not just for what occurred, but for how the author responded, by standing up for this man's rights and refusing to examine him even though, according to the white resident on duty, "everyone else does it." Her explanation of her actions, why forcing treatment on anyone is unethical, and why this disproportionately happens to Black individuals was an incredible read (and she only SLIGHTLY makes it about her at the end, as she claims this inspires her to quit her job at this particular hospital). I wish her other chapters followed a similar structure, where she uses cases to call out more systemic issues and explains how they affect both the patients and the providers, because THAT is incredibly important and would make for an invaluable breakdown of hospital systems and healthcare in the United States, but instead we mostly get saccharine stories about dying kids that are somehow relevant to the author's dating life.

I feel like this book isn't really sure what it wants to be, and it's difficult to get invested, because as soon as you start to find her personal life somewhat engaging, it flips over to more clinical stories, and then when you're in medical mode, it jumps into a discussion of race in America, and when you're on board with that, it goes back to her personal life. It's just clunky. Three stars for the attempt at substance but overall this is a miss for me.
Profile Image for Kelly.
180 reviews6 followers
July 15, 2020
Ooohhh, so many positive reviews about this book. I was hoping to be one them. A memoir about a physician where she shares stories from the trenches as an ER physician. That is right up my alley. That is not what I got!

I understand that the premise of the book was supposed to be how she overcame an abuse childhood to go to medical school and then overcame racism to rise through the ranks in the hospital. Her family history was glossed over and she never discussed how she actually got away from the abuse.

Her memories of her time as a physician are essentially a bitch fest of everuthing that is wrong with the Healthcare system and the human race in general. Essentially, she was always the smartest person in the room and was going to make sure that everyone knew it.

When she was passed over for a promotion or disrespected by an intern, it automatically had to do with the color of her skin. As someone who is also in healthcare, if she had half the attitude in person that she had in the book, that most likely had more to do with it.

I understand that not every memoir will be sweetness and light but accurate and fair would be nice.
Profile Image for Tinichix (nicole).
280 reviews40 followers
August 3, 2020
2020 has really been a great memoir year for me so far. Michele Harper is an emergency room physician who has put together this beautiful piece of work on how her life as a physician, who heals and services others, has ending up teaching her how to heal herself. I genuinely feel as if she has poured her heart and soul into this book in the same way she pours her heart and soul into her occupation. I feel as if the healing she has provided to her patients both physically and emotionally has helped her heal her own heart, mind, and soul and grow as an individual. The book follows not only her occupation but her own inner healings. She has healed the wounds of multiple past relationships and describes to us the psychological circles and cyclic patterns we make within our own lives. I enjoyed these parts as much as the medical accounts and reflections on her own patient care. I don't think a lot of people take into account the inner most workings of a health care facility. All the gears and wheels that are turning that one never sees. All the pieces to the puzzle that either make or break an experience for someone on a personal level, or for a loved one, she gives us a window into some of the flaws and places where our systems are broken and flawed. Once again we have an author being vulnerable and allowing us into their inner most thoughts. This was so worth reading for me, I am taking so much away from it.
Profile Image for Diana.
716 reviews4 followers
July 12, 2020
There’s been a lot of buzz about this book on social media so I was surprised to see it available at my library. At first I could barely put it down. The first half was a 5-star read. But then i started to lose interest. It got new-agey. The dialog became clunky and seemed designed to fit the author’s narrative. It became more about her life philosophy and less about the patients. I found myself skimming long paragraphs. In the end, sadly, I’m down to 3 stars from 5.
Profile Image for Julie Rhinehart.
365 reviews4 followers
July 18, 2020
This book was not what I expected. From the description I anticipated a tough upbringing and to see how she became who she wanted to be after rising from and learning so much from these trials. Instead I found whining about how everything and everyone was against her because of her skin color on top of narcissism about how she is the smartest person in the room (and the world) a fact she blatantly throws in your face. The case studies were disjointed, but her feelings of empathy or disdain for the patients comes through loud and clear. I’m not sure how writing about the patients she treated isn’t a violation of HIPAA?!

I stuck out the book because it was a bookclub pick and kept hoping it would get better. In my opinion, it did not. As a health care professional I was unimpressed with her portrayal of how important she is and that she should be revered because of her chosen profession.
Profile Image for Hilly.
692 reviews1,239 followers
July 9, 2021
Reading this book almost felt like watching a Grey’s Anatomy episode! I really enjoyed reading about Michelle Harper’s experience as a physician, now I kind of want to work in the ER myself.

Being a healer is the powerful gift of bearing witness in an authentic way that allows us to mindfully choose who we are.

(an advice I will hold close to my heart)

It’s super interesting how Michelle intertwined her personal life with her professional life. This book offers a mixture of both and it never gets boring (except for when she talks about meditation and yoga, but that’s a me thing because I literally don’t care 😂). My favorite thing about this one was how the ER stories were told. I have a personal interest in medicine and hospitals, so that wasn’t a shock, but Michelle’s writing made everything even more emotional for me. She was able to tell the stories of these people she met during her job and never once I doubted she didn’t care about her patients one by one. Also, every story means something. Most of them are a commentary on society and how misogyny, systemic racism and police brutality do their absolute worst in hospital settings too. I was sad (but not shocked AT ALL) to learn that even with how great she is at her job, Michelle wasn’t able to climb the ladder and get the job she actually wanted in so many of the hospitals she worked at. It was also very disturbing and eye-opening when a Black man accused of dealing drugs was dragged into the hospital to be forcefully checked by the personnel without his consent only because a white police officer had a hunch that he had swallowed a bag of drugs with no proof whatsoever. And what’s worse is that most people at the hospital didn’t understand why it was wrong to force themselves on a man who didn’t want a probe inside his esophagus.

In the face of these truths, we are reminded that for many people, their bodies are not considered their own. For those whose bodies are viewed as suspect and threatening, those bodies, at the preference of a more privileged body, could be manipulated, even assaulted.

This book was a punch in the gut sometimes and I really loved it. I have recently watched Grey’s Anatomy 14x10 and this book almost impacted me as hard as that episode did.
I have to say, at times the author got a little too philosophical for my tastes as well, but that’s okay because it didn’t take me out of the book or anything like that.
I hope she’s going to write another book like this one because I would definitely read it. Immediately.
Profile Image for Carmel Hanes.
Author 1 book127 followers
November 3, 2020
3.75 rounded up

When I was more naive...like twenty minutes ago...I used to think that someone who had gone through college and medical school would have sufficiently proven their competence and worth to any final holdouts (you know, those who need a sledgehammer to the head). Turns out that even then a person of color can still find prejudice and barriers in every direction he or she looks. Michele Harper clearly had goals and skills and a compassionate heart. Finding a place where that was valued and allowed expression continued to be a challenge as she entered the medical field.

This memoir chronicles some of her experiences as she worked in ER's, in administrative roles and at Veteran's hospitals. We get a close-up view of how her views shaped her work and interactions with patients and coworkers. It was especially poignant in her observations of the differences she observed in how patients were treated based on color. It was eye-opening how standing her ground according to her principles resulted in less than stellar reactions from those around her. It was admirable how she treated patients with dignity and respect for their individuality and personal choices. And it was disheartening the kinds of barriers people in power put in place, for no justifiable reason.

This was a quick and interesting read, comparable to other books written by those who've worked in the medical field. I'm glad I read it, even though it sometimes made me cringe when my assumptions were trampled. I want my medical communities to somehow be above human foibles...even though I know how unrealistic that is. This book reinforced the notion that people are people no matter where they are found, bringing all their untidy humanness with them. But I am grateful for people like Michele Harper. They give me hope.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,301 reviews119 followers
August 25, 2020
Harper grew up in an affluent, abusive family that left her emotionally scarred for many years. This memoir recounts her personal growth as she practiced medicine in the Emergency Rooms of the hospitals where she worked. In the beginning of her career she strived to assume administration responsibilities too, but realized that what gave her the most fulfillment was treating patients. Interestingly, the personal benefits she received through meditation and yoga helped her to treat her patients in a more healthy, holistic way.

Sadly, the fact that she was a Harvard-educated physician did not keep her from experiencing misogyny and racism on occasion—sometimes from co-workers, sometimes from patients. Recommend.
Profile Image for Maggie Cavanaugh.
136 reviews14 followers
July 20, 2020
I hate rating people’s memoirs, this is their real life, private things they put out for the world to know. The premise had me really excited, I love some good ER stories, and this delivered some good stories, you really can’t make up what happens in the ER on a daily basis. However, this didn’t grab my attention at all. The book read like a short story collection, making it feel fragmented, with not much happening to connect all the stories. I did enjoy this overall, but it took me a week to read, during a time when I’m unemployed and have nothing else to do, and other, longer books take 2-3 days. That’s probably an awful way to measure a star rating, but I can’t justify anything higher.
Profile Image for Amanda Harris.
Author 3 books11 followers
July 7, 2020
Although easy to read, with compelling vignettes of the author’s life as an ER doctor, I struggled with the lecturing nature that encompasses many chapters.
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
525 reviews9,483 followers
December 13, 2020
I really liked the first half of this book. The stories were good and Harper is clearly super smart and thoughtful, and does a great job of drawing connections between cases and bigger picture. I appreciated that the politics of medicine, gender, race, etc end up being a big part of the book.

By the end it the book started to feel contrived and a little too focused on whatever lesson the author wanted us to glean from her work. Her opinions and judgements were a little too heavy handed and ultimately turned me off a little. Good writing, interesting stories, but fell flat by the end.
Profile Image for Robin.
523 reviews
August 4, 2020
If The Beauty in Breaking had ended after the introduction it would have been 5 stars..

I enjoyed the first few chapters where Michele was growing up and finding her calling. The next several chapters were a strange mix of self-pity and self-lauding that had me rolling my eyes and grumbling. The final few chapters degraded into episodes of Grey's Anatomy (without the sexy coworkers) complete with a problem, two patients who demonstrated varying ways to handle the problem, and a compact little life-lesson.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that Dr. Harper found her way and loves herself enough to write a book about herself. It's great that she "journaled" her way into a great life, but it should have been exactly that - a journal - not a published memoir.
Profile Image for Hannah Frey.
67 reviews4 followers
July 24, 2020
This book was absolutely breathtaking. It is easily the best book I have read all year.
Profile Image for Rennie.
304 reviews57 followers
October 6, 2020
3.5. There were parts of this I loved so, so much, and I can only wish I'd had doctors as compassionate as her. So many of them could take a lesson from her in listening and really hearing and considering what it all means in a greater context. I'm in awe of how she does that. What an incredible person and practitioner she is. And there were parts of this that were absolutely 5-star material, but sometimes it felt that the lessons she learns or applies after each ER incident were shoehorned in a bit (that's basically the chapter structure -- describe an ER patient from her work in Philadelphia or residency in the Bronx, then what it made her realize or apply to her own life learnings). It also had some incidences of strangely unpolished writing; unpolished because elsewhere, it's written brilliantly. Like, I had sticky notes everywhere, because she put things into words so eloquently that I couldn't. So when it veers into adverbs and verbs that sound strange, or overly dramatic descriptions of things like coffee or being liberated from seatbelts (I think that's what it was) it feels disappointing, knowing how elegantly she can write. But 100% worth reading for some truly shining moments.
Profile Image for Cyn.
16 reviews
July 24, 2020
I could not finish this book. She is too arrogant and political for me.
Profile Image for Kara Ayers.
126 reviews10 followers
July 29, 2020
I rarely dislike a book that I finished but the tone of this author throughout this book felt preachy and arrogant. To be fair, I'm triggered by uncaring doctors who apply their biases to making clinical decisions. It's something I've encountered in my personal life as a disabled woman and something I research professionally as a reason that health inequities persist. Throughout the book Dr. Harper advises us of her wisdom in the intuition she believes to have about people. Through the addition of her physical descriptors of people, it's clear that her intuition is largely influenced by her beliefs about a person based on things like appearance, manner of behavior, etc. While I'm aware that this is simply part of the job of an ER doctor-making snap judgments to decide how to help a patient who might not even be conscious-Dr. Harper didn't seem to see the potential pitfalls and dangers of this.

The interjections of her personal life seemed unfinished and redundant. She is a strong writer and I enjoyed her style if not her content. I am glad I finished the book so that I could feel more confident in my conclusions and could give what I feel is a fair review.

A few specific notes: Dr. Harper's insight leads her to "not be surprised" when a patient's father is charged with abuse after an x-ray found multiple healing fractures. Dr. Harper lists a range of fairly far-out diagnoses or causes of the fractures other than abuse that she considered before rendering her insight-driven conclusion. She didn't, however, mention her knowledge of Osteogenesis Imperfecta, my bone condition-which causes fractures from little to no trauma. While it's a rare condition, it's frightening to think that yet another ER doctor doesn't consider it when ruling out abuse.
Long before this case bothered me for more personal reasons, however, Dr. Harper also admits to making a patient wait longer because she found a note in his chart that he was abusive. Minor spoiler in that she eventually shares her remorse for this act and goes on in an apologetic tone for a bit. She doesn't suggest she apologized to the patient and given the large ego that she describes in her interactions, I'm sure she didn't. Even with remorse, I couldn't drop my anger at her arrogance and entitlement after I read this early admission. Again, I'm sure it's influenced by the hours-days combined-I've spent waiting and waiting for doctors for as long as I can remember (and before that for my mother). To think that a provider would intentionally draw out one's wait in a punitive way is infuriating. I had hoped after this early story/chapter, I'd come back around to appreciate Dr. Haper's story but I did not. I found she lacked insight into her own accountability in situations. I hope her yoga and meditation somehow helps with this because I'm not sure I'd want to be her patient. Sadly, as an ER patient, I wouldn't have a choice.
What is great about this book? Dr. Harper's openness to identifying racism as it plays out in the ER or the healthcare setting. This is definitely an important contribution to the literature. I wish there was more intersectionality in her reflections. She seems to be the perpetrator of microaggressions as well as the recipient.
I don't recommend this book to anyone who doesn't enjoy being angry while reading. Those in medical training might find some of the lessons important to learn-if not from Dr. Harper's example but with your own self-reflection.
Profile Image for Jessica.
7 reviews2 followers
July 4, 2020
This is one of the few books recently that I’ve been compelled to read in one sitting (and one of very, very few that I feel compelled to review instead of just rating). Harper has a stunning way of using story to expose brokenness - be it systemic racism, sexism in the workplace, or illness and pain in our fellow humans. But, true to her calling, she invites healing into those spaces and beckons readers forward into change and growth. “The Beauty in Breaking” will stick with me for a long time.
Profile Image for Monica Kim | Musings of Monica .
506 reviews533 followers
August 29, 2020
This devastation is a crossroads with a choice; to remain in the ashes or to forge ahead unburdened. Here is the chance to mold into a new nakedness, strengthened by the legacy of resilience to climb over the debris toward a different life. — Michele Harper, The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir
I thought of this book for DAYS after I was finished and wrote several reviews that all got deleted before I started a brand-new review. Dr. Michele Harper’s “The Beauty in Breaking,” one of my July Book of the Month selections is probably going to be one of the biggest nonfictions of the year. With its promising synopsis & thought-provoking title and all the attention & rave reviews it’s receiving, I went in with a very high expectation — medical memoir, black ER doctor, life of service, journey of self-healing, and lessons learned as a daughter, a woman, and a physician. It sounded like THE hopeful, moving, and inspirational book I needed in my life, but this was a miss for me.
If you have been following my reviews for awhile, it is no secret when it comes to nonfictions, I am one of the toughest critics. Not only I’m a very critical of the information presented, but my BS radar detects every little things, making me a tough reader to satisfy. Having read my fair share of nonfictions across wide range of genres, I’ve read many great books, and many not-so-great books over the years. I say this whenever a book doesn’t work out for me — there are no bad books, just bad timing & chemistry. One of the hardest genre to rate & write a review is memoirs because the authors are sharing intimate & personal parts of their lives for the world to read, and it’s difficult to pinpoint things when it isn’t my life to judge.
Essentially this memoir is a collection of short stories about her experience as a ER doctor and the healthcare & hospital system, intertwining with bits of her personal stories. She offers ten stories (sort of case studies) of patients she treated, and each story speaks to one particular issue — racism, sexism, poverty, profiling, mental health, veterans, and such and ends with a lesson learned from the interaction that she relays back to a problem in her personal life. She covers each cases in detail from a perspective of a physician, giving us insightful look inside doctor’s thought process and how things are handled in the medical field. Through helping patients — “she came to understand that each of us is broken — physically, emotionally, psychically. How we recognize those breaks, how we try to mend them, and where we go from there are all crucial parts of the healing process.” ——> thus the title, “The Beauty in Breaking.” But ultimately, each patients teach her something important — it’s not the doctor who saves the patient, but patient saves the doctor, so to speak.
So you’re thinking why this book was a miss for me. This is where I want to tread carefully, and please remember the following thoughts are based solely upon my personal reading experience with this book. It’s okay for me to not agree with you, and it’s okay for you to not agree with me. For a book that is marketed as hopeful, moving, and beautiful, I think her story & intentions were not presented well and deliverance of her message didn't get to me in a sincere way. I was expecting a memoir about her life — her pain, struggles, wins, journey of self-healing, and look inside what is was like to attend prestigious Harvard medical school and became a successful ER doctor, especially as a black woman in a school & field that is predominantly white male. The book does touch these areas, but it doesn’t delve into it, so it lacks depth, and it’s more of a background to her patients’ stories.
She touches on many important points on healthcare & hospital system. She actually has quite a lot to say about the healthcare system, hospitals she worked at, and some of the colleagues she doesn’t understand how they still have a job. We all know that American healthcare (and insurance industry) system has its problems, and there were times it felt like the author wrote the book to vent about it. I dare not even try to say anything about what her experiences must’ve been like as a black woman in a medical field, that is not for me to touch on, but she doesn’t mention a single positive experience as a doctor, about the hospitals, or colleagues. She excels on her discussions race & privilege, and there’s nothing wrong about shining light on the issues, but she writes about it without offering any solutions. It obviously comes from her bad experiences, but you can kind of tell that she didn’t really like being a doctor, or more like unexpected things that comes from being a doctor. You obviously can’t foresee everything your job entails until you start working. She couldn’t have predicted the virus crisis we’re facing today, but I think the timing of the book release was bit unfortunate, as healthcare & hospital needs all the love the right now. From the book, you can tell she’s a brilliant doctor and is good at what she does, but she goes on & on about how wrong everything is, how everyone was against her, how every sucked at her job, and how frustrated that it seemed like she was the only person doing the job right. So I’m thinking, what do you think needs to be changed? What needs to be addressed? How can you use your experience & expertise to bring the necessary change? How can you use your voice to inspire or prepare black students who wants to be a doctor? It is okay to vent about your frustration, but you need to offer solutions.
Her story is that she grew up in an elite black family, her dad was also a doctor, but broken family where abuse was prevalent. I don’t think you can attend prestigious Harvard medical school without some sort of help from your family (not just financially), but she doesn’t talk about her family situation in detail, at least not enough for readers to ascertain the brevity of her family issue. But she also doesn’t have anything positive things to say about her family nor expresses any gratitude for helping her to reach higher. She might’ve done it all my herself, so I can’t say say it with certainly. She expresses lot of love for her ex-husband and shares bit of memories they had, and he is pretty much the only person she says anything positive about. And oh, he’s a white guy. You see where I’m going with this?
I’ve said this with other memoirs I’ve read before, I find it bit hard to believe & unrealistic that people can recount their past with so much clarity and in such detail. How does she recall every patient conversations & interactions so clearly that happened many years ago? It’s to a point where some of them felt contrived to fit her narrative. Whenever I say this, some people inevitably always try to argue with me saying you didn’t live the life, so you can’t say this & that. And I understand & respect that opinion. It’s not the life & how she lived I’m questioning, but the astonishing details that’s she’s able to recall. And I know this book is supposed to be much more than the trivial things I’m picking on. This review is in no way of undermining the author’s accomplishments and struggles & courage in sharing personal experiences and efforts to shine light on broken healthcare & hospital systems. Upon finishing the memoir, I couldn’t help but wonder why she wrote this book. I felt confused as to what the author wanted to accomplish or convey and really wasn’t sure what it wants to be — it jumps back & forth from being a personal story to medical story to discussion of race in America. There was a lot author wanted to cover — concept was good and substance was there, but it felt clunky and hard to get invested on. Towards the end of the book, there’s a sense that she is leaving or wants to leave the traditional medical setting and wants to find another way to heal people. I think that is how the idea for this book came about. She’s really into health & wellness, and often inserts about her running, doing yoga, pouring almond milk into her coffee, and meditation. I wouldn’t be surprise to see another book from her about health & wellness or combining traditional medicine & new-age medicine, or some sort of self-help book in the future, I can see that’s where she’s heading. She’s a great writer, and overall, insightful & informative book, but bit of mixed bag for me and it left me feeling deflated...
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,772 reviews281 followers
July 21, 2020
“Brokenness can be a remarkable gift. If we allow it, it can expand our space to transform - this potential space that is slight, humble, and unassuming. It may seem counterintuitive to claim the benefits of having been broken, but it is precisely when cracks appear in the bedrock of what we thought we knew that the gravity of what has fallen away becomes evident. When that bedrock is blown up by illness, a death, a breakup, a breakdown of any kind, we get the chance to look beyond the rubble to see a whole new way of life. The landscape that had been previously obscured by the towers of what we thought we knew for sure is suddenly revealed, showing us the limitations of the way things used to be.”

The Beauty in Breaking is Michele Harper's story of the growth she found in stepping away from the broken places in her life and starting again. Harper has experienced much brokenness, from an abusive father, to working as a strong black woman in a profession as an emergency room physician dominated by white men, to the loss of her marriage.

The stories she tells from her work in the emergency room are captivating, and they, too, support her ideas of the importance of stepping forward, away from the ruins, into great beauty.

“This devastation is a crossroads with a choice; to remain in the ashes or to forge ahead unburdened. Here is the chance to mold into a new nakedness, strengthened by the legacy of resilience to climb over the debris toward a different life.”
Profile Image for Camie.
892 reviews187 followers
September 14, 2020
Dr Michelle Harper is a Harvard educated ER doctor who has written this memoir about how serving others has helped heal herself. Among obstacles she faced are being an African American woman in a mostly white patriarchal system, coming up in a house where her father abused her mother, and having her husband of 12 years ask for a divorce just as she was finally ready to start her career.
Finding herself badly broken she pours her heart and soul into her career and learns to both rebuild her life and become a voice to help patients who are falling through the cracks of a faulty medical system.

I’ve heard this book called the Eat , Pray, Love, of medicine with similar references to naval gazing, but having spent my career as a RN before becoming weighed down with career ending family issues including my own chronic illness, I found her medical vignettes both interesting and very insightful.
This book was published before the Corona Virus arrived to change the face of healthcare in the world so I hope Harper considers writing another book to share her new experiences.
“ And of course, thank you to the ground that relentlessly rises up to meet us as long as we’re willing to take the next step.”

Read for BOMC Sept 5 stars
Profile Image for Julie Ann Mingi.
177 reviews
August 8, 2020
During the time where we learn to appreciate healthcare workers more, I figured I have to read this memoir by an emergency room physician, aside from it being the July Book of the Month.

Michelle Harper is a great writer and doctor, no need to mention that. I was eager to know glimpses of her everyday life in the ER. And after what she has been through, the trauma of witnessing your father abusing your family without remorse is just devastating, and to go through divorce and accept the fact that it didn't work out with your best friend just shows that she rose stronger because in her heart, what she really wants to do is to heal others.

One of the most remarkable accounts in her experience in the ER was when a black man, Dominic was being forced by the police to get medical procedures because he was suspected of being involved in drugs. Dr. Harper, after questioning Dominic if these were true, stood up to the cops and declined to test him for it is against the law to undertake a competent adult to medical procedures if he is not willing to do it. We all know that had it not for Dr. Harper, Dominic would have been evaluated without his affirmation and against his will, and we all know this is because of his skin color.

I also admired Joshua's courage when he was diagnosed with cancer. Two decades ago, he was already initially diagnosed with the disease and been told that he will have a shorter life, but what he did was change his lifestyle and became more positive. Now, as he face yet another diagnosis, he accepted it with so much hope and peace. He repeatedly said he is fine and he feels good about his body, he has this absolute faith in the universe. The comfort and calmness he has for he lived a beautiful life is just what everybody wants.

Amid this pandemic, the courage and strength that our doctors and other healthcare workers have been showing is just boundless, and we should hope it never runs out. We are never going to see people more compassionate and dedicated than our health professionals, we are forever indebted to them.

Profile Image for Tex.
52 reviews19 followers
January 30, 2020
Michele believes in life having purpose; and through her career as a doctor, she is able to find life lessons in many of her patients' outcomes and outlooks on life. This book is a glimpse into the way Michele has used consistent reflection about her work and personal life choices to help positively guide and drive her through life's road map, and inspires others to do so as well. Even when dealt a bad hand, Michele tries to demonstrate how to learn from those experiences, and not have them define you as a person. And, yes, sometimes you do in fact learn more deeply about yourself when you're broken than when everything goes off without a hitch.

I applaud her message, wanting others to be inspired to find ways to better themselves and use life lessons positively. However, I found it to be, at times, devoid of emotion. The book was a bit sterile, which I felt was a little odd, since, when people find themselves "broken," it is often accompanied with strong feelings or emotions. I felt like we as readers weren't really able to truly gauge which points were truly high, some mediocre, and some absolutely devastating. I would have liked to have seen a bit more differentiation when Michele outlined the different events in her life.

July 27, 2021
I found this book really interesting. Michelle Harper grew up with an abusive father, yet in her family no one was allowed to talk about it. Outwardly, she is doing very well, she meets her husband at Harvard, but right when she is about to graduate medical school, her marriage falls apart. Yet, she is so busy, she doesn’t even cry or reflect on it.

Then she starts working as an Emergency Room doctor. She starts to really listen to her patients stories. They too are vulnerable and broken in some way. She comes to realize strength doesn’t come from always rushing through life, but thinking through her breaks in life. So, her patients are teaching her and that makes her a better doctor.

She understands that letting go, loving yourself, and forgiving are essential to move on to a better way of life. She needs to take time to make sure she stays healthy. Then she can offer better understanding to her patients. Being a doctor is not just about rushing and giving a prescription. It is about many aspects and getting to know each person’s story. If that is done then true healing can happen.
Profile Image for Tiffani Long.
380 reviews12 followers
July 27, 2020
Holy moly.... I devoured this book in a day. This was my July Book of the Month pick and I'm SO GLAD I stepped outside my normal genres (see! This is why I love Book of the Month...I pick titles I normally wouldn't even consider. I can send anyone a link to join for a discount...just comment below!) Anyway. This is the memoir of a female ER doctor who tells through each chapter a unique story of patients she's treated, and really how she herself has been healed from her traumatic, abusive childhood by treating them. She treated her patients with wisdom, authority and yet a beautiful humility and care that we'd all beg for in an emergency situation. I underlined things like it was a self-help book, but truly her writing is profound and real and human. I felt like my friend was writing this book and we were chatting, not a prestigious Harvard medical doctor with numerous awards and accolades to her name.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,843 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.